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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 20, 2014 4:00pm-6:01pm EST

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quorum call:
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mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: i ask consent that further proceedings under
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the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. the republican leader is recognized. mr. mcconnell: i'd like to say a few words about a staffer i'll be very sad to lose tomorrow. denzel mcgwire is one of the most genuine people you'll ever meet. she's always got a smile on her face and a ready joke. and she's the only senate staffer i know of who can plan on a personal -- listen to this -- a personal birthday song from speaker boehner every year. she is also got a determination that's strong as steel. she is a master negotiator. and all members, even the speaker, have learned its wise to say in her good graces. she has worked for some of the most respected members of this body, including jon kyl and judd greg and she's taken on some of the thorniest issues offers her more than 20 years here in
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congress. in this job, you get accustomed to hearing bad news. but what i tell meme is that if i have -- people is that if i have to hear bad news, i'd rather it come from denzel. she is always got plan to move forward and there's usually a joke slipped in there as well. denzel is too mod toast say so herself, but she is been in the middle of a lot of big legislative battles around here. she is been in the minimum of pretty much -- prett mix of prey much everything you can imagine. she is also worked a lot of late nights. she's got plenty of war stories. but she's never lost her optimism or her good humor. now, that's no mean feat, mr. president. so i'm really going to miss
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denzel, but she is more than earned a breakers and i wish her nothing but the best as she moves on to the next chapter in her life. i'm sure she'll be a great success. and on another personnel issue, aid also like to say a quick word about chris dobby, the senate financial clerk who will be leaving us soon after more than three decades of service sms chris came to the senate in 1983 after graduating from radford university. he was a junior auditor back in those days. today he's got a broad range of duties. he's weathered a lot of storms. he's also one of the most popular guys in the senate becauses a responsible for making sure everybody gets paid. but senators' staffs aren't the only ones with nice things to say about chris. his colleagues praise his sincerity, his steady hand, his confidence, and his friendliness. chris is a consummate family man.
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he's got three daughters -- colleen, caroline, and courtney; a grand song he aambassadors and a wrief -- a doers and a wife of 31 years, kathy. i know he's looking forward to spending more time with awferl them. he's probably looking forward to the understand of his daily commute, too -- a two-hour trek to the district from out in virginia. that's two hours each way every day. i understand kathy has already got a to-do list that's a mile long, so we know he'll have a lot on his belate wha plate whes here, but we thank him for his long and dedicated service here in the senate. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: aquorum
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call: quorum call:
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mr. hatch: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah.
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mr. hatch: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. hatch: thank you, madam president. madam president, i wish to take a moment to pay tribute to my former chief of staff, michael kennedy. in my 38 years as a senator, i have seen many talented staffers come and go but few have left such a lasting impression as michael. he is someone for whom i have a deep appreciation and much respect. that is why it was so difficult for me when i learned that michael would be leaving my office to pursue an opportunity in the private sector. i had come to rely so much on his counsel, his leadership and his savvy, that it was very difficult and hard to let him go. i know i speak for everyone on my staff when i say michael will be sorely missed. before michael came to my office, he was living in salt lake city and working at utah
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state university at vice president for state and federal relationships. under his leadership, the university developed its first federal program, secured critical line-item funding, enhanced its footprint and resource portfolio and became the key player in facilitating the merger of two utah schools. michael was also the point man for all matters related to capitol hill and utah state legislature. his reputation for hard work and integrity helped him craft strong relationships and close connections throughout the state. he knew the landscape, customs, and culture of utah better than almost anyone. his experience and his reputation proved invaluable to me. madam president, i know that these tributes can omnibus sound like eulogies with the way we talk about people as if they had passed on. well, considering how hard michael worked, i'm surprised this isn't his eulogy. his energy and work ethic always
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amazed me as did his sense of style. perhaps the only thing sharper than michael even mind was his wardrobe. fuel few people can pull off a navy suit a pink lining and silver cufflinks but michael did so with ease. you might not know michael was such a sharply dressed because his and "washington postian" named me the best dressed man in congress i can only hope some of my style rubs off on him. however, if people knew how little i pay for my clothing i think they might want to take back that honor. michael took a pay cut when he joined my staff nearly four years ago and he always joked that his next job would be as an unpaid summer intern. ed like to think that his financial sacrifice was emblematic of his desire to serve the state of utah and improve this great country through the united states senate. his willingness to serve was most evident in the way he always put the needs of
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constituents and staff above his own. michael's dedication to my staff was only surpassed by his dedication to his family and i truly believe that he owes his success to the constant support of his wife natalie, a beautiful woman i've been blessed to know. natalie and her family have been friends of mine since she was young. natalie grew up as a friend of my children so naturally i felt protective and wanted the best for her. when she announced her engagement to michael, elaine and i were delighted. still i was surprised someone impressive as natalie would agree to michael's engagement proposal. i guess in addition to his talents we can add marrying out of his league. i was grateful natalie knew well the rigors of serving on the united states senate staff having previously worked with senator bob bennet. not only was she an invulnerable support to michael, she was
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always always there to lep me any way she could. she was wonderful. while michael was serving as chief of staff natalie gave birth to their daughter emlittle or as i call her, sweet pea. they gathered in my office and gave sweetpea father's blessing as is the transition in our faith. it was a sacred experience to join michael and natalie and their families for that special education. michael's family wasn't the only one to grow grow in the time he was with me. during those few years we had 12 new babies and four spouses added to the families of our staff. whenever there was a birth or marriage, michael went out of his way to make sure they were taken care of. he fostered an atmosphere of camaraderie, friendship, and family friendliness and was critical from my office's ability to serve the people of utah.
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people always knew he was genuinely concerned for them and their needs as they tried to adjust to the wonderful changes of the growing family. nevertheless, i knew that there were plenty of times when michael would rather have been with natalie than with me. one particular instance comes to mind. during the end of the 112th congress michael and i rang in the new year together during an extended voting session. michael bought a bottle of blue powerade from a downstairs vending machine at the capitol and we counted down the seconds on my senate clock. i knew he wanted to be with his family but i was grateful for his sacrifice in staying with me. this intense dedication was the norm for michael kennedy. every night that i left the senate michael would be there to wish me a safe drive home and continue his work for me late into the night. whenever i traveled i was always
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by my side and ready to help. together we spent a lot of time on the road visiting each of utah's 29 counties. we drove from meeting to meeting across beautiful western landscapes that many, many memorable conversations. though road trips can be long and tedious michael's good humor made him one of the greatest traveling companions i've ever had. i've been extremely fortunate when it comes to my staff. i've had the privilege of serving with some of the most gifted and gored people our nation has to offer. each of those has brought something unique and important to their service but i have to say that even among the direct fraternity of talented senate staffers, michael kennedy belongs in an elite class. i've no doubt michael will enjoy enormous success in his new position. success has been the defining characteristic of every endeavor he has undertaken. i have had many chiefs of staff over my 38 years in the senate
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but none has ever been better than michael. while the selfish part of me wishes he could have stayed in the senate a bit longer i have to say that i wish michael and natalie and darling sweet pea the very best going forward. i don't say these things haphazardly. this young is truly one of the finest people i've known in all of my experience in the united states senate. he was dedicated, he was consecrated to this work, he did everything he possibly could to help my staff and me do a better job in the united states senate. michael is a true friend, he'll always be somebody whose friendship i revere, and like i say, his wife is a wonderful friend as well and sweet pea, i call per pea now, she is one of the cutest, most darling young women -- young girls that i
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have ever seen. so with that, madam president, i yield the floor -- i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. a senator: i ask that we dispense with the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. murphy: i ask that amanda clinton be granted floor
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privileges for the remainder of the calendar year. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. murphy: thank you very much, madam president. madam president, this past saturday, open enrollment began for the second round of state-based and federal exchanges all across the country. think about where we were a year ago today. the government was in shutdown. the federal webpage where people went to enroll was a blank screen for many. just outrages all across the country. a lot of folks -- a lot of our friends on the other side of the aisle claiming that this was proof that the health care reform law could not work, that it was a failure from the beginning. well, a year makes a big difference. a year later and we have seven million, eight million people who have insurance on these exchanges. across the country, we have
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lowered the number of people without insurance by 25% in a year's period of time. that's remarkable. in my state of connecticut where we have run the best exchange in the entire country, we have cut the number of uninsured in half just a year's period of time. that's even more stunning number. health care rates of inflation are as low as they have been in most of our lifetime. the state of connecticut is actually spending less on medicaid than it was a year or two ago and quality is getting better. by most all of the indices we follow, the number of people who are readd mitted to the hospital after a surgery or the number of infections that people get while they are in the hospital, they are all lower than they were when the bill first went into effect. and while a lot of my republican friends come down to the floor with stories of people who had bad experience with the health care bill, the data clearly is on our side. the data tells only one story, that the affordable care act is
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working. but we have a lot of stories, too, millions of them, as it turns out. i have never denied that there are going to be people that will continue to have bad experience was our health care system. there will be people who will have bad experiences with the affordable care act and with the exchanges, but they are in the vast minority. the majority are people like christina who is a small business owner from stratford, connecticut. several years ago, christina left a job that provided employer-based coverage to start her own business in bridgeport. this is her dream to start her own business. but like a lot of americans who have a dream to start their own business, she was reticent about doing it because she was worried about losing her health care insurance. well, she stayed insured on cobra until it expired. then she had to go into the individual market. she recalls filling out a 15-page questionnaire, asking about anything i ever even remotely discussed with my doctor. unfortunately for her, she got a
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rejection notice from a carrier that basically just copied and pasted what she had wrote in the application and said here is your preexisting conditions and that's why you're uninsurable. her only remaining option was to go into connecticut's high-risk pool. as she was shopping around for insurance, she decided to get her annual mammogram at age 40. the hospital let her know that they found something on that mammogram, something suspicious. facing a potential cancer diagnosis without health care coverage, it created an enormous amount of anxiety for her. and it was at that moment that it struck her how important it was for people to have coverage. so she went to access health, which is our state-based exchange, to look at plans and she realized that she had another option. she found a gold exchange plan. it asked her to pay $430 a month which was a big difference from the $1,200 per month that she was paying under the high risk
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pool. by the way, a lot of the repeal and replace crowd say that you should replace the exchanges with high risk pools. for christina, the high-risk pool was a big financial risk to her, $1,200 a month down to paying $430. and she says this. she says i'm thankful that there was a solution for me to be able to keep my business and have affordable health care insurance that can't be taken away. now, christina hopefully is going to be what a lot of people called job creators. she is hopefully going to hire a lot of people for her new business. she is going to do it because she was able to start that new business because of the affordable care act. on saturday, the first day of enrollment, h.h.s. said that 100,000 people submitted applications for coverage, and more than 500,000 people were
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able to log onto and more than a million people just since open enrollment has begun, have been window shopping for insurance options. by and large, web sites across the country are working and they are allowing people to come back and shop for plans. it's really important that people do come back and shop for plans because what we know is that the insurance industry likes this bill as well. now, a lot of people on our side of the aisle don't like the fact that the insurance industry likes this bill so much, but they like it so much that there are about 25% more insurers that are offering plans on these exchanges. so if you were on a plan for the last year, you should just know that there is likely more options out there for you. so you should go on to your state exchange or onto the federal exchange and check it out. there is going to be more options with potentially better fits for you.
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now, that's not to say that people haven't been really happy with the insurance coverage that they have got. here is some other news that we have gotten in since the last time that i was on the floor. the gallup poll surveyed americans who had bought insurance in the first year on these plans, and what they found is pretty remarkable. 70% of the people who bought insurance in the new marketplace last year rated it as good or excellent. would that we have the same ratings for the united states senate. 70% of people say the coverage that they got was good or excellent. three in four of the newly insured said that they are satisfied with this aspect of their health care experience, and that's compared with 61% among the general population with insurance. so people are actually more satisfied on exchange-based plans than they are on non-exchange-based plans. if you're satisfied now, you may be able to get an even better deal because more insurers are now signing up. the other good news is that
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premiums are going to be on average lower. that's an impossible thing to say in the current health care environment. people are just not used to hearing that premiums from year to year are going to be lower, but that's the truth. a study from kaiser and a study from the wakeley consulting group, kaiser looked at the second lowest cost silver plan in 49 cities around the country and found the premiums are going to be decreasing slightly from last year. wakeley looked at the largest county in each of the 34 states with marketplaces run by the federal government and found on average that the rate decrease was going to be 1%. we frankly would be happy if the rate of increase were only 2% or 3% because on average in 2008, the premium increase was 10%. in 2009, it was 10.8%. in 2010, it was 11.7%.
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we're having an average premium decrease in the exchanges this year. more proof that as folks get more coverage, as people get access to preventative care, they are driving down overall health care costs because less people get into crisis, less people have to run to the emergency room. they get cheaper cost care earlier on. better for them. better for the taxpayers, better for their bottom line. kara from gramby, connecticut, has this story. when kara was born, the doctors immediately told her parents that she was going to face a lifetime of obstacles because she was diagnosed with only one ailing kidney and a slight hearing impairment. luckily for her, her parents found a great doctor at connecticut children's medical center. by the time she was 10 years old, her one and only kidney had started to fail, unfortunately, and a kidney transplant was
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recommended. her father gave her one of his kidneys, and she was able to graduate high school and college without having any major health care problems, but she remembers always being warned by her parents about how difficult her life was going to be because of her health care ailment but also because of the fact that her life decisions were going to be dictated by whether or not she could get health care. and so she was so relieved when she found out she could stay on her parents' plan until 26 under the new health care law. it was critical to her because her health after she graduated college took a sudden downward turn. she began having frequent headaches that never seemed to go away. her voice became really hoarse. and what she thought was a virus ended up to be diagnosed as a brain tumor. because of the a.c.a. and her parents' insurance, she was able to get great coverage. she went out to go look for a job but wasn't able to find one that offered health care insurance, and she went on to
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medicaid before she could sign up for health care insurance herself. her tumor reappeared, but even despite this latest setback, her doctors still believed that they could extract the tumor and the prognosis for kara is good, but she has health care. she has had continuous health care because of the affordable care act, because of medicaid being expanded throughout the states. kara says that i know for sure that i wouldn't have made it this far in life without health care. it's incredibly essential to have it. you never know what's going to happen to you. don't take your health for granted. kara from gramby has health insurance because of the affordable care act, has had it continuously because of the affordable care act. but differences are being made all over the country. i'll tell you just one more story and that's one from the middle section of the state, from ohio.
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jim worked for 37 years for the same company. he was typically putting in 50-hour work weeks. it included travel and working weekends. it really started to take a toll on his health and he knew he had to retire. if he wanted to live longer, if he wanted to enjoy his years in his 60's and his 70's, he had to retire but he couldn't do it because he needed health care for him and his family. his wife is a cancer survivor. she had been diagnosed with leukemia 15 years ago and the only way she was going to be able to get insurance was through his employer. so he had to keep working even though it was the wrong thing for his health because of his job lock caused by his necessity to get health care insurance from this job that he was connected to. the affordable care act changed all of that. he retired in march of this year, and he went and did his homework on
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the plan he chose would have cost him $1,200 per month to cover him and his wife but with the subsidy he received, with the tax credit he received their premium costs were $127 a month. jim is shopping as we speak for plans in 2015, but he knows that he's going to live a longer life, that he's going to be able to be there for his wife and for his family because of the affordable care act. jim's got a pretty interesting take on all of this. he says that he got to leave his job and spend more time with his family and spend more time concentrating on his health. he says -- quote -- "i'm much healthier and happier than i was before." plus, he adds, "i'm helping the economy. when i left my job, they had to hire someone else. so i'm a job creator too." this is one of the great benefits of the affordable care act. it reduces job lock, people who have to stay in jobs, people like jim. but also people like the first
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woman we talked about today, christine, who was able to start her own business because of the affordable care act. open enrollment is upon us. people have 25% more options. on average they have premiums that are lower than they were last year. you can sign up for something better than you had or you can join the eight million people who have signed up on the exchanges and participated in medicare expansion all across the country. you can be part of this pretty amazing story that is being told all across the country. an affordable care act that is insuring more people than ever before in this country, is contributing to the stabilization of health care costs across this country that still leaves us with a lot of room to go, still way too many people paying way too much for health care but at least charts us in the right direction and is making people healthier at the same time which is really what
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this is all about; right? it is not just about saving money. it is about allowing people a better quality of life and it's doing that as well. as we mark the coming second week of open enrollment, madam president, it's important again to point out a very simple fact, which is that the affordable care act works. i yield back and i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. barrasso: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: thank you, madam president. i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, madam president. madam president, with regard to the health care law, the proof has come out today.
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the administration has been cooking the books. that's just not me saying it, madam president. it's come out all across the press. "usa today" just out, "obama administration gave bad health exchange numbers." associated press, "oops, administrative erred on health law signups." let's take a look at this. the department of health and human services said thursday, this is reading from "usa today," "it made a mistake in how it calculated enrollments under the affordable care act, including 400,000 dental plans in its figures for medical plans. now those dental plans allowed the obama administration to claim more than seven million enrollments." and seven million, madam president, was long
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considered the magic number, the magic number that would allow the new health insurance exchanges to be sustainable. what does the secretary of health and human services say? well, today she said this mistake is unacceptable. i agree with the secretary. this mistake is unacceptable, but it's not a surprise to the american people. we have questioned a long time what numbers the administration was putting out, and i think it's fascinating that the administration has continued to lower and lower and lower the numbers as more and more information and research has been done, and they can hide it no longer they were cooking the books. earlier today bleg went up with the -- bloomberg went up on the story based on the analysis from the committee on government
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oversight and reform. now h.h.s. as admitted duplicity. let's take a look. on may 1, health and human services released exchange enrollment information from a period of october 1 of 2013 to april 19 of 2014, and at the time health and human services said over eight million people had selected a plan through an exchange, either the state exchange or the federal exchange. in the report, h.h.s. also disclosed that about 1.1 million selected a stand-alone dental plan through the federal exchanges. a footnote in that report said that totals for stand-alone dental plans do not include individuals who are enrolled in the marketplace plans that provide integrated medical and dental coverage. then on may 21, and after previously touting the 8.1 million exchange enrollees,
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health and human services decided that they would stop issuing additional reports. no more monthly obamacare exchange enrollment information. september 18, in testimony before the house oversight committee, the c.m.s. administrator massive lynn tavenner -- marilyn tavenner testified there were 7.3 million people enrolled in the health insurance marketplace coverages as of august 15. but remember the magic number was a sustainable program was still seven million. when you take a look at the oversight committee's analysis, it shows nearly 400,000 of these enrollees didn't purchase insurance through the exchange for health care. rather, stand-alone dental coverage. that takes the total number under seven million. on november 10, earlier this
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month, secretary burrwell said there was 7.1 million exchange enrollees as of the end of october. however, she also failed to break out the coverage of those stand-alone dental insurance indicating the true number, a true number as of last month likely closer to 6.7 or 6.8 million individuals. well, the nearly 20% drop in that exchange enrollees suggests that once many people learn about the obamacare problems, the extremely high deductibles, the narrow networks, they stopped paying. they stopped paying their premium in spite of the fact that there continues to be large government subsidies they're receiving. the drop is likely to -- this drop is likely the central reason that h.h.s. dramatically lowered its exchange estimates earlier this month saying that by the end of the next year instead of the 13 million people predicted by the congressional
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budget office, that there would be about only 9.1 million people enrolled. so the health care law as i've heard from my colleague from connecticut who came and told an individual story, but the health care law overall remains very unpopular, so unpopular that as earlier this week in all the polling ever done about the health care law, it is more unpopular now than ever before. popularity is at an all-time low, and unpopularity, disapproval is at an all-time high. and say why would that be? there are a number of reasons. one is the front page of the "new york times" the other day. november 15, "cost of coverage under the care act set to increase." president obama stood before the american people and said under his plan, the cost of insurance policies would go down $2,500
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per family. they've not gone down. they've headed in the other direction, and again this year the cost of coverage under the health care act is set to increase. so it's no surprise people are concerned when the president tells them one thing and something else happens, they question, they question the president. now, there are a number of reasons it's not popular. that's just one. that the president's solutions of putting many more people on medicaid under the health care law, a program that's already failed and is failing and continues to be a problem, front page of the "wall street journal" friday, the 14th of november, "as more join medicaid, health systems feel strained." stories about people who can't get care, people who are providers who can't afford to provide the care for medicaid
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patients because the reimbursement is so low. but that's the president's solution. force more people on to medicaid because the president focused during all of these discussions has been on the word coverage. and as a doctor i will tell you the focus should be on the word "care." people want care. they know what they want. they know what they need in health care reform. they want affordable care, quality care, and choice. that's what a republican plan will look like to replace and strip out the terrible parts of this health care law. and then for people living all across the country in rural communities -- and i know, madam president, in your state and in mine, we know what impact the loss of a rural hospital has on that community. but yet, front page "usa today" last weekend, november 14-16,
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"rural hospitals in critical condition: obamacare critics say the law is speeding up the demise of the facilities." there is a map of the united states, a list of 43 hospitals that have closed since january of 2010 as a result of the health care law. you say is it a result of the health care law? well, i believe it is because it was ezekiel emanuel, one of the architects of the health care law who said and recently wrote that twain nobetweennoi and the year 20, u0 hospitals in the united states were likely to close. we know what the impact of the cuts that happened to our seniors on medicare as a result of the health care law will have to rural hospitals where a disproportionate number of the patients are seniors on
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medicare. the hospitals cannot sustain themselves, and that was part of the original budget numbers as they looked at health care law, as we debated it on this senate for that and said, please don't pass this, democrats, who one by one by one voted for the health care law, because it's going to impact our rural hospitals, and now we see 43 hospitals in rural communities all around the country and tell stories of people that couldn't get care, had to tras travel such a long distance to get critical care, were unable to survive. and, yes, it's possible for colleagues to come to the floor and tell a story about one individual whose life may have been improved as a result of the health care law, but across the country there are many stories of people who are finding they can't keep their doctor, they can't keep their child's pediatrician, they can't go to the hospital in their local community because of the
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specific components of the health care law, which have caused so much damage and wreaked havoc in communities all around america. i continue to hear from people in wyoming who've lost the insurance that worked for them and liked. they had to buy other insurance, much more expensive, that covered things they didn't need, didn't want, and can't afford. and many now find themselves for the first time without insurance, when they had it before and it worked for them and their families. so that's why all across the country people are saying, this health care law isn't working for me. that's why the sign-ups are down and the belief that fewer people are going to sign up, because for them they don't feel they're getting good value. they see what they're going to have to pay out of pocket for deductibles, what they have to pay oust pocket for -- out of pocket for co-pays, what their premiums are, and, as a result, they're saying "no, thank you." and even with the subsidies, health and human services has significantly lowered their
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predictions of how many people will sign up for the health care law this year. and that's in spite of the fact that the fines are going up. and then on top of all of this, madam president, there is a health care mit mitterrandahealt that's made comments that are disparaging of american citizens. he has said, not just once but time and time again, as the videos continue to come out of this gruber miniseries of tv videos, that this health care law was sold to the american people by trying to confuse them, and he has questioned their intelligence. and it was nancy pelosi who said, first you have to pass it before you get to find out
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what's in it. the american people are furious about the way this administration has treated them, has behaved toward them, and has acted upon their willing misto believe an administration and believe a speaker of the house at a time people wanted health care reform in america. people did not get p what they wanted, and they did not get what they promised. and so today i come to the floor to say to my colleague who just spoke about the health care law that perhaps for the folks that you have mentioned it has worked. we want health care to work for people all across the country so they can get the care they need from a doctor they choose at lower cost. i mean, that's what they want. and so today the proof comes out. the administration has been
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cooking the books, and, as "usa today" says, the obama administration gave bad health exchange numbers, and the associated press starts its story on this very same topic with one word -- "oops!" and the exclamation point. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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